A baseball life.
If one incomplete sentence can sum up Frank Osborne’s life, those three words may come close, while still falling short.
Frank Osborne died Aug. 15, 2014, a Friday. He was 87.
The life he lived, and the lives he affected over his many years as high school teacher, baseball coach and friend could easily fill the lines of this column with many left out.
I had the opportunity to know Frank best during the years between about 2004 and 2008 when he would come into the Courier-Herald and we would sit in the conference room talking baseball from high school to the majors.
I have known many coaches and players, but few if any had the reservoir of knowledge about the game Frank held in his head.
To grasp Frank’s vision of the game one has to understand that he saw the game through the sharp-focus lens of the players between the lines. Frank understood all the technical jargon and the proper execution of every position on the field better than anyone I’ve known, but his gift for the game was not his technical prowess. It was how he transferred his knowledge of the baseball to his players.
Frank understood baseball players, at their core. It was through a player’s actions on the field Frank discovered who he was and what made him click. The footwork, release, stance at the plate – it all fitted together into a picture of the player as a person, an individual. It was a puzzle Frank could put together like no one else.
I have seen many coaches over the years attempt to change some kid’s mechanics based on the latest $100 book or hotsy-totsy workshop that claims to make a player the next Babe Ruth.
I was sitting with Frank drinking coffee one day in the office and he was looking at me with those clear eyes and that broad smile. He was telling me about some guy he watched working with a kid. The coach was fresh from some $500 sucker’s seminar.
“That’s kid’s arm won’t last a week before it falls off,” Frank said shaking his head.
I can see him as clearly as if it was yesterday shaking his head and holding up his broad hands. Frank, of course, tried to tell the coach (Frank was no shrinking petunia when it came to giving his opinion, which is one of my fondest memories of him). The coach wouldn’t listen, and Frank proved to be right.
Frank never forced the game to fit the person; he helped the player find the game within himself.
Frank said to me more than once, “Give a player the skills and game will teach him.” His heart was that of a teacher, and it rang true throughout his life.
I know two of the players who were on the Enumclaw Hornet 1977 state championship team – Johnny Van Wieringen and Scott Nickels. Both were excellent baseball coaches and their knowledge of the game and coaching came from Frank. It takes very little prompting for either of them to describe the profound affect Frank had on their lives – as players and men.
Everyone has tough times. In a baseball game some innings are the top of the world, and some are trouble from the first pitch. Baseball is a game of errors. We all make errors and we all lose sooner or later.
Frank taught his players, and all who knew him, how to win and live with losing.
He left all who knew him with the gift of a baseball life.